Photographers to lose copyright and right to photograph in public (cached)

The following post originally appeared on PhotoActive, but had to be taken down when the site host HostPapa complained about the traffic. I’ve offered to host it here.

With photographers about to lose copyright protection on their images, and the Government to curb their rights to take pictures in public, Philip Dunn looks more closely at these outrageous proposals and how they will affect you.

Photographers to lose copyright protection of their work

Photographers' Rights to be taken away

This startling and outrageous proposal will become UK law if The Digital Economy Bill currently being pushed through Parliament is passed. This Bill is sponsored by the unelected Government Minister, Lord Mandelson.

Let’s look at the way this law will affect your copyright:

The idea that the author of a photograph has total rights over his or her own work – as laid out in International Law and The Copyright Act of 1988 – will be utterly ignored. If future, if you wish to retain any control over your work, you will have to register that work (and each version of it) with a new agency yet to be set up.

Details about how this agency will be set up – and what fees will be charged for each registration – have been kept deliberated vague in Lord Mandelson’s Bill. If ever there was a licence to print money, this is it. You will pay.

If they are not registered with this quango agency, your images can be plundered and used anywhere, by anyone – on the understanding that the thief makes a very minimal effort to find you – the author of the image.

Currently, International Law, through the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, recognises the ownership rights of the creator of the ‘property’. This enables image owners to control how their work is used, and whether it is used at all.

International Law will be ignored by the British Government and this new Act will overturn more than 150 years of UK copyright law.

If ever there was a massive step forward to a police state and suppression of information, this is it. Most of this thieves’ charter is not even going through Parliament as primary legislation. The Digital Economy bill Section 42 sections 16a, 16b, 16c enable ad hoc regulation by Mandelson’s office without further legislation. None of that will never be voted on.

Lord Mandelson works in devious ways – he’s clever.

The Government is determined to push through this legislation without amendment by May 6th – certainly before the date of the General Election.

You can find out much more about how the your photographs can be used by going to Copyright Action. This article exposes the devious detail in this Bill and just how it will affect you as a photographer.

Copyright Action

Photographers are to lose all effective rights to take photographs in public places.

Not content with taking away photographer’s copyright, another section of this Government is proposing sweeping changes to your freedom to take pictures in public places.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has deemed that a photograph taken in a public place may now be considered to contain ‘private data’.

This means that if you take a picture in the street and there is a member of the public in the shot, that person has the right to demand either payment – if you wish to publish the image – or that you do not publish it. In fact, according to the ICO. There does not actually have to be an objection, it is up to the photographer to ‘judge’ whether the subject might object. Now work that one out if you can.

Applied to professional photographers, this is, of course, the perfect charter for politicians, crooks, and bent officials to avoid being photographed and exposed. How many working press photographers will find themselves in court?

How easily will politicians’ nefarious behaviour be revealed for all to see?

How many innocent amateur photographers are going to be harassed and menaced by people in the street?

No matter that Britain has more CCTV cameras watching our every move than any other country in the world, in future, if you take a photograph in a public place and that image is published on the likes of Flickr – you could be liable to prosecution.

Write to your MP NOW and object to these outrageous constraints of your rights and freedom. Remember, there is very little time left.

Oh, and if you would like to use the image above on your website – please feel free.

Copyright Action

Royal Photographic Society

Digital Economy Bill

On a lighter note, I can report with confidence that photographers who come on my Photography Holidays to Spain NEVER have to deal with these problems. In Spain common sense still prevails. Photographers there are always made welcome and you can photograph people in the street to your heart’s content. Why not come and join us – you can enjoy your hobby freely there.

Philip Dunn is a former Sunday Times travel photographer and has been a professional photographer for 40 years. He now runs Photography Holidays and Courses in Menorca and Scotland and produces instructional DVDs

Philip Dunn will be at The Focus on Imaging Exhibition Stand L47 at Birmingham NEC next week

28 thoughts on “Photographers to lose copyright and right to photograph in public (cached)

  1. Patrick Goff

    How do we stop these fascists? This unprecedented attack by the Mandelson on photographers is but one example of the state removing individual’s freedoms. It seems driven by a desire to protect the corrupt establishment being exposed, but has the effect of preventing investigative and pictorial journalism.

  2. Matthew

    Whilst there are many arguments to be made on this topic, it is not at all helpful when such arguments make inaccurate statements.

    “If future, if you wish to retain any control over your work, you will have to register that work (and each version of it) with a new agency yet to be set up.” – this is not what the Bill says. It says that a user of a work they believe to be orphaned (they’ve made a search, published a notice, etc. – how good those might be are not relevant to this point) must enter this fact in a register, so that copyright owners can find uses of their work. It does not say that copyright owners must register works – or if it does, I’ve completely missed it and would be happy to be pointed to the relevant clause. It even states that “If an authorised person finds the owner of an interest entered in that authorised person’s orphan works register, the authorised person must remove the entry.” – ie. if you do know the copyright owner, it mustn’t be in the orphan works register.

    “on the understanding that the thief makes a very minimal effort to find you” – the search has to be “reasonable” according to the Bill, and includes some examples of what must be searched (public databases, catalogues, etc.). You can argue over what that might mean, but I doubt a court would say “very minimal effort” would be “reasonable”.

  3. Russell

    Patrick is right – this is “fascism”. We don’t need jackboots on Main Street to open our eyes and see how our civil liberties continually disappear as criminals of all varieties legislate or lobby for mroe restrictive laws that ultimately help them get away with what is effectivelt treason. Yes, TREASON.

  4. John Richardson

    I disagree with Matthew’s comments above.

    I’ve taken a look at the bill and it seems pretty clear to me in section 116B of the pdf (for some reason the web version didn’t give me all the details) that the Secretary of State has the power to set up a licensing body for copyright issues if he wishes to do so.

    With regard to the question of what constitutes a “reasonable” search, again I’m with Philip on this. “Reasonable” is not defined and though a few hazy examples of what may be considered acceptable are listed, this is a complete minefield for any court to decide. For example, the bill states that the searcher would be expected to conduct any search in the country THEY BELIEVE the image to have originated from, so that picture of a homeless man I’m thinking of using looks to me like it’s come from Albania: guess I’ll search there. Of course there are few public datbases etc which I can search there, so it will only require “very minimal effort” on my part – which of course I don’t tell the court!

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  6. Matthew

    @John – “it seems pretty clear to me in section 116B of the pdf […] that the Secretary of State has the power to set up a licensing body for copyright issues if he wishes to do so.” – that’s a licensing body for extended licensing, not a register of copyright works, which is what the original post said, and what I said was inaccurate. I don’t see how your point invalidates mine? The BJP have an article on that particular clause here:

    You don’t need to define regular words, a court can use their intelligence. If someone says they thought a photo was Albanian and it clearly isn’t, I again doubt a court would draw the conclusion that the user had carried out a “reasonable search”, in the English sense of the phrase. The Bill states you have to keep a record of what you do, so I’m not sure what you’re not telling the court in your last bit.

  7. Tulta

    I’m with Matthew on this one. Whilst the incursion into civil liberties is definitely a worry for me as a photographer and individual – there should always be fewer, rather than more laws, and they should be about protecting society from harm, not controlling what citizens do by legislating in the greater interest of politicians, companies and celebrities controlling their image (super-injunctions?!) – and whilst i therefore have reason to dislike the ICO proposals, that’s a separate issue from the registration of orphan works.

    Similar organisations as that proposed for photographers already serve musicians by maintaining records of songs receiving airplay and used in adverts/broadcast media, collecting fees from the advertiser/radio station/stores with piped-in music etc. on behalf of the as-yet unidentified author. Those who will be in danger of losing out if this new legislation goes through are only those photographers who assign their publishing rights to commercial enterprises, who would profit from all subsequent fees, but then, this is already the case.

    And, ‘reasonable’ is actually a legally-defined term of historic usage which forms the basis of civil law. What is reasonable is already what is expected from an individual in any circumstance, and reasonable action/reaction taken is a principle legal defence (though not independently of other circumstances affecting the ruling). It’s for the presiding judge or jury to decide on what is reasonable under the circumstances.

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  9. phentermine

    Won’t journalism die once all the photos that follow an article will be made in a studio and not on the streets? I truly hope that this law won’t go through. Copyright can’t be ignored. I can’t even imagine a photographer register thousand of his photos to prove that they really belong to him and not to the public! It’s insane!

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  15. Dieter Zakas

    The US Constitution has a premise, further clarified in the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to our Constitution), that powers not spefically spelled out are held by the people, and that the government derives its power from the consent of the governed. It is indeed sad that the “mother” of the US does not have the same legal protections for her subjects.

    You have my sympathies.

  16. Pingback: Photographers to lose copyright and right to photograph in public (cached) | Online Journalism Blog « : An Extra Gaze :

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  18. Jim

    Mandelson is a reoccurring nightmare. How many times has he been shamed, only to be reinstated with a new and better title. The UK is becoming more like 1984 all the time. There are so many bodies against this bill but it’s being pushed through the back door. It’s a real concern.

  19. André

    This simply leaves me speechles.
    I was used to horrific messages from Britain (aka Big Brother and 1984), but this is just amazing. How can someone with at least a little bit of sanity come up with such an idea?

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  21. Brian

    Hmm… for some reason, legislation like this–and the tactics used to force it through–reminds me A LOT of the American Healthcare “Reform” that President Obama is trying to ram through.

  22. Tim

    The Digital Economy Bill if passed will be a disgrace and a tragedy for this once civilised nation. With ‘people’ like unelected Mandelson in charge who needs enemies? And…Brian: The Bill is not being discussed openly in UK. The American Health Care Reform is being discussed openly in America. The Reform does not compare with this covert attempt at limiting our freedom. Believe me, if you had benefitted from the National Health Service in UK, as I have, you would be well and truly thankful.

  23. PhilJ

    Matthew above is absolutely right. This article makes some wildly inaccurate statements. If you are genuinely concerned, then don’t rely on what you read on Blogs, read the text of the BIll and the Hansard record of debates from the House of Lords (which covered photography, and the safeguards intended to protect it, in depth).

    There is also a useful webpage here: which deals with some of the more recurrent points that are (wrongly) made about this legislation.

  24. Pingback: Photographers to lose copyright and right to photograph in public (cached) | Online Journalism Blog « flakes of nuisance

  25. AL E.

    @ Matthew,
    Exactly WHY is this bill needed?

    It seems to us in the US that liberties/freedoms in the UK have been under attack for many years. It’s been said that failure to fight for your freedom results in a loss of your freedom…I happen to believe that.

    Endless copyright, we don’t need, but reasonable copyright laws should stand.

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